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Virus Expert Says This is the #1 Most Important Thing You Can Do Right Now

Hunker down.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

COVID cases are higher than at any point in human history and continue to rise, as the Omicron variant infects the exposed. How can you stay safe? And what's the #1 most important thing you can do right now? Dr. Michael Osterholm, Director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, appeared on The Chad Hartman Show yesterday to reveal just that. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


Dr. Osterholm Warned of a Major Health Crisis

Exhausted doctor / nurse taking of coronavirus protective gear N95 mask uniform

Osterholm warned of a "viral blizzard of virus" in his home state of Minnesota and nationwide. "It's taken off around the world, even in research stations, the Antarctic. It goes fast." "This is a highly, highly infectious virus. The good news is that overall the severity of cases tends to be less numberwise, but the problem is there's so many more people infected that even if it's a smaller proportion of those who have serious illness, life threatening illness, there's so many more of 'em that our healthcare systems are gonna be challenged. The final piece is of course, who takes care of these patients? Healthcare workers. Healthcare workers who are fully vaccinated" and boosted "will have a very, very, very low risk of having serious illness and death, but they've gotta be off of work for anywhere from five to 10 days. And so now you have a healthcare system that is hanging on by the skin of its teeth, in terms of just trying to have people there with the expertise to take care of these patients."


Dr. Osterholm Said Some Hospitals Will Have Sick Doctors Treating You, or No Doctors

tired nurse with glasses

"If we lose 10 to 20% of healthcare workers here in Minnesota, because they too get infected, this is going to be a perfect storm," said Osterholm. "And that's what we're seeing around the country. I was just on the phone with a physician in Rhode Island where they're in such dire straits right now at their hospital—if you're infected today, meaning I have tested positive today as a healthcare worker in your hospital, and I'm well enough though, I may have sniffles. I may have something else—they're letting you work with an N95 respirator on just because they are so short of people. What's the choice? Working with somebody who's infected or nobody at all by the bedside for eight hours. That's where we're see play out in many locations around the country."

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Dr. Osterholm Said Wear an N95 Mask


"Don't just put a piece of cloth in front of your face," said Dr. Osterholm. "N95 respirators are readily available online. They are much more effective and they're effective because of two things called fit and filter. Fit is how tight is it on your face? And does it leak air from the sides, just like swim goggles. How many people…have ever have leaky swim goggles? Well, they didn't leak through the glass. They leak through the seal. So you want that tight, but if you have a tight seal, then how do you breathe? How do you get air back and forth? Well, N95 respirators are made basically with a blow in material that has electrostatic charge. And so the pore size is big enough that air can move through readily as can the virus, except for one thing, the electrostatic charge traps it just like a filter in a  heated and cooling system. And that's very different than cloth masks. So if you really wanna protect yourself, you've gotta have those N95 respirator or KN95s."

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Dr. Osterholm This is Why You Need to Help Slow the Spread and Get Vaccinated

Nurse with face mask sitting at home with senior woman and injecting covid 19 vaccine.

"Many people are gonna get infected with this virus. If you're vaccinated fully, and that means that third dose, your chances of having severe disease or death is dramatically reduced. So you wanna be vaccinated. But the second thing is we don't wanna have a thousand people all get sick today and need healthcare services. We'd like to space those thousand people out over the next 10 weeks, if we could. So helping to slow down transmission also has a lot to do with whether or not you're going to get seen for your heart attack or your stroke or your automobile accident, any of those, your ectomy, anything you have, like that will be really enhanced in terms of the healthcare services. If we don't flood 'em all at once."

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Dr. Osterholm Said This is the Most Important Thing You Can Do Now

Young woman spending free time home.Self care,staying home

"I think the next three to four weeks are gonna be the most critical," said Dr. Osterholm. "I think the case number's gonna rise rather substantially. And I'm not even counting cases anymore as cases." There are too many to count properly. "What I'm looking at is hospitalizations, needing oxygen or ICU care. That's a lagging indicator, meaning that it always occurs, you know, seven to 14 days after you get infected. So it's not quite timely, but it's the best measure. … So we'll know that in the next three to four weeks, and I think that's the time period. So I'm urging people: If we can just hunker down now for the next three to four weeks, we can do a lot to slow this thing down. And that to me is the most important thing we can do."

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How to Stay Safe Out There

Two women with black face masks sitting on bench in park

Follow the public health fundamentals and help end this pandemic, no matter where you live—get vaccinated or boosted ASAP; if you live in an area with low vaccination rates, wear an N95 face mask, don't travel, social distance, avoid large crowds, don't go indoors with people you're not sheltering with (especially in bars), practice good hand hygiene, and to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Alek Korab
Alek Korab is a Co-Founder and Managing Editor of the ETNT Health channel on Eat This, Not That! Read more about Alek
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